Patients wish to discuss end-of-life care

Lecturer at VIA University College, Camilla Askov Mousing
A new study shows, that patients, who knows their condition is serious, want healthcare professionals to initiate conversations about palliative care. The study is carried out by lecturer at VIA University College, Camilla Askov Mousing, as part of her PhD.
A new study shows that patients who suffer from life-threatening illness would like healthcare professionals to talk to them about palliative care.  Today, fear of bringing up the subject is widespread.

Healthcare professionals are often reluctant to talk about end-of-life care with patients, who have life-threatening or terminal illness. One of the main barriers for professionals is a fear that approaching the subject could destroy patients’ hopes for the future. 

A new study, carried out by lecturer at VIA University College, Camilla Askov Mousing, as part of her PhD, suggests that the contrary may be true: patients would like healthcare professionals to initiate conversations about palliative care. The patients know their condition is serious and require this type of conversation. But they feel uncomfortable bringing up the subject with healthcare professionals as well as with relatives for fear of becoming a burden. 

Talking does not mean giving up on patients 

“The findings are highly relevant for healthcare professionals. It shows that we have to overcome our fear of talking about this type of care and explain to patients with life-threatening illness that discussing palliative care does not mean we are giving up on them,” says lead author of the study Camilla Askov Mousing. 

The study included semi-structured interviews with 12 patients living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The findings revealed that patients have many worries about the future of their condition, but that they prefer healthcare professionals to talk to them about it. 

Palliative care should be addressed early 

Palliative care generally refers to making a person comfortable and relieving symptoms at the end of life. Increasingly, however, it is addressed at an early stage of any life-threatening condition. 

“Palliative care needs should be discussed at an early stage of illness to ensure an increased quality of life for patients. This study shows that bringing up the subject actually may be a relief for patients,” Camilla Askov Mousing says. 

She adds that palliative care needs – and the openness to talk about them – vary from patient to patient and day to day. 

“As healthcare professionals, we must be flexible in our approach to end-of-life care and ensure that we know who is responsible for assessing and taking action,” she says. 

Professionals need new skills 

The current study is part of Camilla Askov Mousing’s PhD-project, which is a collaboration between Aarhus University, VIA University College and the Municipality of Randers. The PhD focuses on ways to increase healthcare professionals’ ability to identify, initiate and evaluate patients’ palliative needs. 

Results from the current study were presented at the European Respiratory Society (ERS) International Congress in Munich on September 7th. 

A press release was published by the European Lung Foundation 

For further information please contact: 

Camilla Askov Mousing, lecturer, PhD-student
T: +45 8755 2166
E: caac@via.dk

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